Thursday, November 13, 2014

[-3 to #TCO14] - An evening talk with Samatha Ready, salesforce.com Evangelist

6 Days to Top Coder Open and 6 blog post for each day!

The following is a blog post I wrote for the Top Code Open 2014 blog. Enjoy!



The main reason I started competing in topcoder is because of salesforce.com contests.

In 2009, (casually), I became a salesforce.com developer, and from that time, I started working with this fast growing platform.

In the last 6 years I had the honor to see the platform getting bigger and bigger with new features, powerful tools, a stable cloud platform, and an expanding set of possibilities (Heroku is my favorite one) that really makes my job worth getting done.

But I think that the most valuable "feature" of this technology is the immense amount of docs, blog posts, forums, and repositories, all for free and ready to be consumed in your projects.

The salesforce.com community is really amazing and you always can find an expert ready to help you. If to this awesomeness you add a BIG event, DreamForce, and hundreds of evangelists that "spread the word", you get why salesforce.com is one of the fastest growing companies in the world.

The 2014 Topcoder Open will see a great line up of speakers with its first Developer Conference Unplugged.

For all these reasons, I decided to ask Samantha Ready, Senior Developer Evangelist at Salesforce.com, and speaker for the event a few questions.

Hi Samantha, it is a pleasure to chat with you.

How does it feel to be a central part of this awesome community?

I am overtaken with gratitude and excitement all the time to be able to be at the hub for technology surrounded by some of the smartest minds in the business. Absolutely love the fact that I get to mingle with developers from all over the industry to hear about the cool things they are cooking up for their companies, and love when I can help with those innovations.

What does really mean to be an evangelist? I mean, the main reason is that your job is to spread the "Salesforce word", but is there some sort of feeling of responsibility in front of the dev community?

I think being a developer evangelist is partially spreading the "word" aka the whys and how to's of Salesforce. In addition to that, its also a matter of inciting imagination and possibility with devs helping them envision what they can build for their company and empowering them to use the building blocks they need to do those things. Documentation doesn't always give that kind of context, and so I try to do it through stickier ways like a Udacity course, developer guides, Project Trailhead for learning paths, webinars, and talks to name a few.

You've been a girl that used to talk with robots (you have a background in computer engineering with a concentration in robotics), how and when did you chose to follow the web development and the Salesforce Evangelist path?

So don't get me wrong, I loved robotics. It was a challenging beast and it was extremely satisfying seeing your robot compete or shipping a product. Truthfully though, most of the programming I did for my last job as an software engineer was low-level embedded C and Perl scripting which plays tricks on your psyche after a while. I lived out of the command line and didn't really talk to any of the engineers I worked with because we were so heads down. I found Salesforce through a friend and while I had no idea what Salesforce was at the time, the company seemed extremely innovative and I thought it sounded like a good opportunity for growth. I jumped over to an internal development role and felt the atmosphere and company was a fit from day 1. Rapid development, tons of new languages and frameworks, competitive, and collaborative...my favorite things! I immediately loved the "instant gratification" aspect of web development rather than the 10-week push for an inch of progress at my former company, and haven't really looked back. Both disciplines are great for sure, and they each have their own set of challenges, but I think I prefer the fast iteration of web development and the infinite learning possibilities for new tech.

Has the robotic passion ended or do you plan to reach that path again?

The robotics passion has definitely not ended, and I'm so happy that the internet of things trend is making its way into the enterprise!

How has this passion helped you in your evangelist career?

I think that my passion for robots has helped me geek out more times than I can count. I love to tinker, and I love to talk to people about their pet projects as well. In addition to that, I think it made me more confident in trying other things because it laid a foundation for my own self confidence which was "even if this seems impossible and you have no idea...google it, and figure it out."

It is not usual to see a woman that loves to code, but recently (and luckily) the number is increasing. In my experience I always felt it was a matter of lack in interest. How do you, as an expert and successful woman, see this?

I think the best analogy I heard was from a colleague of mine (Mary Scotton) who said,"Just like some time ago when being a doctor was seen as a job only men do, that’s how some people see programming right now. But now, being a doctor is seen as a job for both men and women, and that’s where it’s going with programming." I see the increasing number as a good sign and a definite trend, but I think for this to grow there still needs to be more proactive efforts. I think we need more awareness overall in schools, families, friends about motivating young men and women at a young age to take an interest in STEM education. There are already efforts in this direction: GoldieBlox, Girls Who Code, Hour of Code, Made with Code to name a few, but I think it needs to be even more prominent in both school programs and extracurricular activities to catalyze exponential change. I think if high schoolers have more of an opportunity to learn how to code or get a taste of computer engineering or computer science, we'll see a big shift in the gender balance.

Were you attracted to the "nerd" world of coders or simply had a secret passion for computers and robotics or the random nature of life is the only explanation?

I fell in love with coding for the exact reason above--my school had a C++ class, and I had no idea what it was but I took it as an elective and had a blast. I took more programming courses after that, and eventually started tinkering on PCB layouts. I'm a polyglot nerd though, because besides coding I'm obsessed with physics, space, and marine science. I'll nerd out over space or the ocean any day of the week.

You've actively worked on Salesforce1 recently. This is an important step for Salesforce and, as far as I worked on it, it actually is a great and important piece for the whole Force.com platform. Which is the feature you love most of Salesforce1?

So up until DreamForce my answer would have been the ability to implement custom Visualforce within Salesforce1 to be able to build dynamic mobile pages instantly deployed. I've made a few different iterations of a "Find Nearby" page that will locate restuarants, accounts, people, etc near where you are completely in JavaScript, Visualforce, and Apex in a little under an hour and displayed in an interactive google map.

Can you anticipate any future (and top secret) features?

Now that DreamForce is over, I can tell you about my not-so-secret new feature Lightning Components. Salesforce1 is a Lightning App that is built using Lightning Components, and as such the places where Salesforce1 uses Lightning Components will become extension points for developers. The Salesforce1 UI will not only be customizable to the point where you can not only build completely custom features from scratch but you will also be able to develop on top of the standard UI and still utilize all of the built in functionality the platform provides.

How do you see Salesforce1 in the next future?

Salesforce1 right now is a mobile app and a platform. This mobile app will eventually become the full experience for Salesforce--a new UI and unified desktop across all devices. This means build once and deploy everywhere, which will be huge.

Have you been working on side projects besides your evangelist job that you want to share with us?

I had started tinkering on an integration between the FitBit and Salesforce to store information over time to get more in depth and filterable analytics. I was hoping to build that out even further utilizing your Salesforce network on Chatter and turning it into a competition with colleagues.

What do you plan/want to say at the TCO14 developer talk? Any particular subject?

This is still TBD... Top Secret :)

Your bio in the TCO14 site states that you love "scuba diving, scaling mountains searching for the world’s best hot sauce while listening to good music": did you find the world's best sauce?

If you like pasta I can give you wise advice :) World's best is the search for the holy grail...and as such I think is equally futile. The "best" hot sauce is subjective depending on what you're eating! So here are a couple: Fall foods (butternut squash, roasted veggies, chili) - Yucatan Sunset Picante Sauce, Chicken/Grilled foods - Nando's HOT Peri Peri, Eggs or Beef - Yucatero XXXtra Hot Habanero, Veggies - Marie Sharp's. Old faithfuls are Cholula and Sriracha :)